How Big Is Your Thinking Box?

She thinks outside the box.

High praise. Someone who thinks outside the box is seen as being a maverick, an independent thinker.  They are someone who can connect seemingly unconnected dots.  Leonardo DaVinci, Elon Musk, Steve Jobs.  They create and can conceive of things that draw praise and awe from the rest of us who are, supposedly, stuck in the box.

I have a slightly different take on this.  I don’t think you can think outside the box.  I don’t believe that you have the ability to think beyond the current limits of your comprehension.   But I do think that you  can get a bigger box.

The slight problem with the phrase “Think outside the box” is that it implies that there is only one box.  And if you believe there is only one box, then you create limits for yourself that are identical to the limits that your friends, family, and society in general believe they have.  

One common theme that we see when we look at those people who went beyond what was considered “normal” is that they ignored the restrictions that most of society was perfectly content to live with.  Whether it was in athletics, the arts, cultural, or technology, these people have the wonderful ability to completely tune out the often well-meaning naysayers.  What many of us see as the limit, the wall of our box, is just a starting point for them.

They simply don’t accept the well-defined box that society has setup.  They want to see what’s on the other side.  They know something is on the other side.  And this reaching for more pushes the walls of their box out beyond what the rest of us are allowing.

Then we peek over our self-erected walls, see them standing 10 feet away, and marvel at the amazing things they show us.  Eventually, we all also push out our walls to meet theirs, but then off they go on another adventure.

We don’t have to wait for other people to show us that something is possible before we allow ourselves to exeperience it.  We don’t have to wait for all of society to agree to move the walls of “the box”.  Go ahead and push out your own walls.  Upgrade your box!

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